Mr Alexander became immigration minister in August 2013, replacing Jason Kenney who had been in the post since 2008. Mr Kenney introduced a series of major changes to the Canadian immigration system, re-focusing the system to favour skilled based and employment based immigrants over family stream applicants
Mr Kenney was immigration minister during a period of great change to the Canadian immigration system. There were major changes to the permanent residence visa programme for skilled migrants; the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP).
Federal Skilled Trades Program
To make immigration for tradespeople easier the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP) for tradespeople was introduced. He also introduced the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) visa; a visa stream which allows skilled workers who have worked in Canada for a year to apply for permanent residence visas.
Mr Alexander paid tribute to his energetic predecessor in an interview with Postmedia News, a Canadian news agency. 'It's a pleasure to step into [Kenney's] shoes because there's a record of achievement here' he said.
Mr Alexander has made it clear that, in 2014 at least, he intends to focus on ensuring that the changes introduced by his predecessor work and on improving the service given to potential immigrants to Canada. His chief focus will be on decreasing waiting times.
Parents and grandparents
He has announced that he will reopen a visa stream for parents and grandparents of Canadian permanent residents and citizens, allowing 5,000 people to apply for visas to visit their children in Canada.
He will also concentrate on preparing CIC for the introduction of an 'Expression of Interest' (EOI) system for skilled workers which is due to take place on 1st January 2015.
Mr Alexander gave a series of interviews at the end of December 2013 outlining his ambitions for 2014. He told Postmedia that he wants the waiting time for an applicant for a Canadian permanent resident visa under the FSWP to be reduced to about six months.
55,000 FSWP visas per year
The FSWP is Canada's main skilled immigration visa programme. Around 55,000 people are issued with permanent resident visas under the FSWP each year. The current waiting time for an FSWP application to be resolved is approximately 12 months.
This is a considerable improvement on the situation before mid-2012 when some people had waited over eight years for their FSWP applications to be determined.
In 2012, Mr Kenney took drastic action and terminated all FSWP applications made before February 28th 2008. This was a controversial move. Nearly 250,000 applications were terminated and some of those affected launched a legal challenge in Canada's Federal Court. It was defeated.
EOI system in January 2015
Since then, good progress has been made in cutting the remaining backlog and Mr Alexander has said that CIC is on course to introduce the EOI system on time on 1st January 2015.
Australia already operates an EOI system known as SkillSelect. Under this system, those hoping to emigrate to Australia as a skilled worker first submit an EOI to Australian immigration. This EOI contains information about the candidate; You do not need to send documentation with this application.
Australian employers can then browse through a list of Expressions of Interest and select candidates that they would like to employ. Australian immigration will then invite the candidate to make a formal application for a permanent resident visa. This application must be accompanied by evidence that all the claims made in the EOI about the candidate's education, health, training etc are correct.
Similar to Australia's SkillSelect
The Canadian system is expected to be similar to SkillSelect except that employers will not be able to browse through the applications of appropriately qualified candidates. Instead, Canadian employers will approach CIC and CIC who will then send the details of candidates that it selects as being suitable.
The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has criticised this proposal and have called on CIC to introduce a system similar to that in Australia which would allow Canadian firms to browse a list of suitable candidates.
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